Zendaya won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Rue Bennett on HBO's Euphoria, breaking two records, becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy twice at the age of 26. These sentiments underscore why Zendaya's performance as a troubled teenager is so compelling and powerful.
Rue makes increasingly horrible decisions, her reckless actions and words hurting those she loves the most. Zendaya always fails to provide the critical context for Rues cruel choices, often accompanied by deep sadness and unbearable pain when we first meet her. She is just recovering from an overdose, yet she immediately resumes using.
The first season of the show shows in a flashback that Rue's sister Gia (Storm Reid) was the one who discovered her when she overdosed, her limp body lying unresponsive on her bedroom floor in a pool of vomit. Despite the trauma Rue's addiction has caused her mother (Nika King) and sister, Rue continues to use, lying to them and faked her negative drug tests. The more remarkable it is that Zendaya ensures we still sympathize for her
Hitting Rock Bottom
Rue falls to her death in Season 2, and Zendaya maintains her humanity even at her absolute lowest level. In one of her most Emmy-worthy scenes that season, she bangs on Fez's (Angus Cloud) door to get more drugs, blaming him for her mental illness. She understands why she went to such lengths in Season 2.
Rue goes from her bedroom to a church, stumbling up to the pulpit to find her father, and wrapping herself in his arms as if she never wanted to give up her grief. Zendaya makes her death a thing of the past, making it even more tragic to see how she suppresses her sorrow.
An Honest and Riveting Performance
Rue is broken by Zendaya's portrayal of her mental health, which is vital in assisting us understand why she has found herself in such a terrible addiction cycle. In every moment, she makes her mother, sister, and friend cry with her sharp and violent words, but Zendaya maintains a strong sense of pain, and even regret in her actions. After the brutal confrontation between her, Rue goes to the bathroom, crying out in her mother's voice, and she pleads with her mother to get the
Zendaya (Hunter Schafer) carries the heavy weight of Rues's agony and despair with each word, oftentimes apologizing to her family and friends. She walks through the streets clutching her stomach in agony and vomiting, and stumbling into the home of a drug dealer. We understand why she made so many horrible decisions to relieve the pain.
Without Zendaya's unconditional kindness, Rue would not be such an empathic character in her worst moments. Her sincere concern for the character and her obligation to fulfill her story justice are what makes Rue so special to so many viewers. Her Emmy acceptance speech underscores her strong belief that she is capable of making a difference in others.